Since we came back from up north late on Saturday night, we were in Madison for the closing evening of gun season. Matt had to do a little work Sunday morning, but we made it out by about 3 that afternoon. And what a change was wrought by warmer weather. I mentioned how very cold opening weekend was. And how cold it was during the week. Sunday was in the mid-thirties. As we came around the bend at Sunny Slope, there were five cars in the small parking lot. Remember that this piece of land is just about 250 acres. Cramped, when everyone has a gun.
I won’t gloss over it- it pissed me off. I’m not sure exactly what it is that forms the basis of my hatred for fairweather people, but it’s there. Maybe it was growing up and being a fan of Chicago sports- I get grumpy when the Packers fans up here turn off their TVs when they start to lose. I don’t know. It’s definitely translated to disliking people who fairweather outdoor sports as well. Opening weekend, there were two people out there besides Matt and myself. And I didn’t even see them- Matt did, and they hunted, then left. Since the weather had warmed up- Saturday had hovered right around freezing- I had halfway expected there would be more people out. But it still astounds me how inconsiderate people are.
I saw two other hunters and Matt saw one or two himself. From what I saw, and from what Matt told me, they probably had never been out to this area, much less scouted it. Of the two I saw, one lollygagged around for about ten minutes, and the other set up after I did, and we got there a bit late. He didn’t have a blind- he just sat in some scraggly tall grass across the field from me. He was facing entirely the wrong way to see deer where they tend to come out in this field, and to top it off, he was rotating every so often. Taking his coat off, putting it back on. The cherry on the top of all this was he left at about 4:45- about 25 minutes before dark. With a flashlight, when there was still enough visible light to read easily. I hoped he’d spook a deer out to me, at the very least, but no such luck.
I did hear and just barely see one deer Sunday evening, but with how many people were kicking around, I doubt I’d have ever gotten a shot- it was crunching around on the steep backside of the hill I sit on. And I only saw its neck at a distance between some trees. Our gun season definitely went out with a fizzle. Someone got a deer out there- we saw bloody drag marks in the snow and dirt.
I didn’t end up hunting Monday evening. Many fewer people use black powder rifles, given how difficult they are to load, and the extra cleaning required. I figured at the very least, I’d give the deer some peace and quiet. The DNR’s gun season numbers are in- statewide, the harvest appears to be down about 30%. After just opening weekend, it was down 18%. They’re blaming it on the intense cold and fewer people being out, but given how many tags are purchased each year, I don’t see why it couldn’t be a both/and between cold weather and a smaller deer herd over all.
One upside, however, is that we are finally, finally seeing migrating geese. I counted upwards of 100 overhead on Sunday, and have since seen more, as well. Hopefully, we’ll make it out for our first geese for the year soon. The season ends the 21st. Duck is done already. Many of the lakes and rivers up north are actually frozen. The Wisconsin river just north of us had decent ice when we crossed it headed north. We’re getting plenty of skim ice up here. Or we were, when it was still cold. When it dips again, it will restrict landing spots for geese. Our hunting spot has a current strong enough to slow skim ice, so they will hopefully be forced to land near us.